2005 August 21 Sunday
Watching Casualty Rates In Iraq

If you want a reality check on Panglossian claims about how the Iraq war is going the place to go is the page Iraqi Coalition Casualties. The rosy view of strengthening Iraqi military forces and a dwindling insurgency runs up against US casualty rate figures by month. As the time of this writing the coalition death rate per day so far in August 2005 is 3.05. That surpasses every month in the chart except March 2003 (7.67), November 2003 (3.67), and April 2004 (4.67). Well, how to square that with the rosy scenario?

One argument is that the insurgency is shrinking in size while simultaneously becoming more sophisticated. This might be true. But if the Panglossian war hawks are correct then a few other factors ought to be causing a decline in US casualties: A) the increase in the size and capabilities of the Iraqi military, B) the hardening of US bases and vehicles, and C) improvements in intelligence about the insurgents. Why aren't these factors lowering US casualties?

If (as some war hawks claim) the insurgency really has shifted its attention toward softer targets such as Iraqi civilians and Iraqi government soldiers then why haven't US casualty rates plummeted? Could it be that the insurgency has grown more capable and has simultaneously kept US casualty rates up while also raising casualty rates of Iraqi government soldiers and civilians?

Now, perhaps good news awaits right around the corner. In a few months attrition of the insurgents combined with factors that work in our favor ought to cause a gradual decline in US casualties. But then again, the use of shaped charges to up the lethality of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) could spread much more widely in the insurgency and the gains made by use of quite expensive better armored of vehicles could get cancelled out by relatively cheap improvements in IED design. Also, the continued rise of militias who are partitioning Iraq could lead to larger scale civil war and more attacks on US troops. Also, the Iraqi military could continue to fight the way most Arab armies fight: poorly due to reasons familiar to long time ParaPundit readers such as the practice of cousin marriage.

The long standing question in my mind: "Unilaterally Withdraw From Iraq Or First Partition?" But that question has been morphing of late: Will the partitioning of Iraq by the Iraqi militias survive the US withdrawal or will a new ruthless strongman arise to put Iraq back together again?

Share |      By Randall Parker at 2005 August 21 11:56 AM  Mideast Iraq

John S Bolton said at August 21, 2005 1:56 PM:

What are the chances that any Bush relatives, such as his nephew, might go on any sort of tour of Iraq? T Roosevelt sent his sons into war zones, as did other presidents. F Roosevelt held a conference in a war zone in Morocco, at Casablanca. The situation is considered much too dangerous in Iraq for anything like that though.

playrink said at August 21, 2005 8:40 PM:

Voltaire's twit might ponder those who forecast doom & pronounce them the best of all possible oppositionist camps.

Invisible Scientist said at August 21, 2005 11:25 PM:

Randall Parker:
I think that you have a very good idea. Maybe Saddam should be appointed as the president. All we need is to allow the famous lawyer Alan Deshowitz to defend Saddam at the trial, and as part of Saddam's acquittal bargain, we make a deal with him that he would once again become a pro-American dictator like in the good old days. And who knows, we might even re-arm and re-use him against the Shiite rival country which is becoming an even more powerful adversary.

ed said at August 22, 2005 9:14 AM:

You should also check out the link on that page "2005: Iraqi Police and Guardsmen Deaths". I think it's even more telling.


American forces can lower their casualty rates by staying bunkered up in protected areas.

Rhandi said at August 22, 2005 12:02 PM:

Some of you folks sure don't get out much. Typically, civil wars have higher casualty rates than peacetime, even peacetime under a homicidal dictator like Saddam. Even peacetime in Detroit. But this ain't a mere low level civil war. This is a damned clash of civilizations. Stone age vs. modernity. The stone age ain't going down easy.

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